Northwest Indiana Real Estate Remodeling Tips

The kitchen is one area of the home that sees the most wear and tear. All the water, heat, and food spills add up quickly so it’s important to focus on quality and lasting appeal when you’re choosing materials for a kitchen remodel. Here are a few things you should avoid:

Cheap Laminate Countertops: The bottom rung of laminate is extremely susceptible to wear and tear. It can melt if you forget to place a hot pad under a pan that’s fresh out of the oven and the edges can chip off from repeated exposure to moisture and heat.

Flat Paint: A flat or matte finish is great in rooms with lower traffic, but it’s a bad idea in the kitchen where the walls are regularly exposed to splatters and spills. You need paint that can withstand an occasional heavy scrubbing, so opt for gloss or semi-gloss finishes.

Trendy Backsplash: If you watch any home remodeling show, you’ll certainly see kitchens with expensive, elaborate backsplash designs and materials. Those trends can be pricey to pursue and can look dated in a hurry. Subway tile is a cheaper, classic option that you’ll never regret, plus you’ll have more room in your budget to purchase quality materials to be used elsewhere.

Cheap Flooring: Just like the countertops, your kitchen floor needs to be strong enough to take some abuse. Cheap flooring easily scuffs and peels (especially from moisture). Quality flooring is worth the investment.


Oct. 17, 2017

Fall Leaves Bring Sold Signs

   

Summer has come to an end and you probably are thinking you've lost the opportunity to sell, and need to wait till next summer. But that's far from the truth! Although it's not as hectic and crazy with the swarm of buyers on the market, the fall season brings out the most serious of lookers. They are the pool of buyers that waited out the summer frenzy to find their perfect home in the fall, and you don't want to miss these buyers! They are ready to make a move, today! And selling in a slower period does not equate to less money. That's a misconception that home owners have based on untrue data that floats around. With the right agent, and your home being priced correctly, you can get a great deal selling your home during the fall season. And might actually prefer it. Here are the top 3 benefits to listing during the fall season.

1. Serious Buyers - Let's be honest, if buyers are out during the busy season, looking for homes, they are serious and ready to buy. Although the summer brings in a large crowd, that crowd contains a lot of people that are excited by the season, and fall into the "trend" of house hunting. These people end up not really being serious about the process, and tend to hold off for another time. If people are investing time to look during the fall season, they are more likely to be interested in actually buying your home, instead of touring it.

2. Less Competition - Selling in the fall isn't something many families can accomplish due to personal schedules. That's why a significant amount of homes get listed during the summer season. Which means that summer time brings in a lot of competition. Selling in the fall means the potential house next door that has slightly more perks that may have been listed during the summer, doesn't make your home sit stagnant, since everyone wanted your neighbor's house. It also doesn't devalue your home because of the house that could go up next door that could be under-priced in your neighborhood, and draw all of the attention.

With a slower season, you get dedicated attention to your property, which increases the chance of a sale. 

3. Easier to Find Your Dream Home - Not only do you get to benefit from a slower season during the selling process, but you can also benefit on the buying side. With less competition on your dream house, you can get a better deal. The summer brings a lot of missed opportunities for buyers on their dream homes, because they go off the market instantly. This will give you the opportunity to get your home on the market and take your time to find the right one to resize into. A much calmer pace to the transaction will make it less stressful, and everyone all around happier. Don't feel rushed into buying a home overnight during the summer, it could turn into a headache. If you want a far more peaceful transaction, that has calmer pace, then selling during the fall is perfect for you.

Posted in Buying
Aug. 14, 2017

Debunking Myths to Home Buying

 

Debunking Myths To Home Buying

 

Finally ready to make the transition into home ownership? That's awesome, and in this exciting time you can be turning to friends and family for an insight into the process. However, there seems to be a circulation of misinformation spreading around, so we're here to clear up a few myths. 

1. THE FIRST STEP IS SEARCHING FOR A HOME

You know the saying, "Don't put the cart before the horse," well that's important to remember when it comes to buying a home. You don't want to start looking for a house until you have gotten to sit down with a lender and discuss what the bank will qualify you for. If you fall in love with a house that's $250,000 and come to find out you're only qualified for $200,000 you can get your hopes crushed and waste a lot of time. Don't start the process on the wrong foot and make sure the numbers line up.

2. YOU DON'T NEED A REAL ESTATE AGENT

For starts, when buying a home, 99% of the time the buyer's agent gets paid by the sellers. That random 1% can be for odd circumstances. So you're getting to use the services of a real estate agent for free. Having a real estate agent on your side means you'll get to see homes that aren't as readily available on public searches, you avoid outdated listings and scammers (there are lots of them), and you have protection when it comes to navigating the legalities of contracts and buying a home. Why wouldn't you want an awesome negotiator working to ensure you get the best from the transaction? For FREE!

3. YOU CAN'T BUY A HOME WITH BAD CREDIT

Fortunately for some, this is a myth. Lenders and banks come by the hundreds of thousands and all though there are a few loan options, a lot of lenders can work with credit scores down to the low to mid 500's. Get in touch with an agent to help you connect with the right lender who can help you potentially approved. There is a lot of factors that go into approvals, but your credit doesn't have to be a sore thumb during the process. However, you will be doing yourself a favor if you connect with a credit repair specialist to at least get those numbers in the 600's. A better score will lower you interest rate.

4. YOUR DOWN PAYMENT HAS TO BE 20%

Think you have to sell an arm and a leg to buy a home? Not at all! An FHA loan only requires 3.5% while a conventional only requires 5%. There are a lot of programs that can potentially help you with down payment assistance or be 0% down mortgage. USDA and VA loans are the most popular 0% down programs. If you qualify, this can take a big chunk off the amount of cash you have to bring to the closing table. 

5. DOWN PAYMENTS ARE THE ONLY UPFRONT COST

This is one of the biggest misconceptions. There is a lot of cost that goes into buying a home, and that includes upfront costs. One of the mandatory ones are a termite and appraisal. If you are getting a mortgage, the home will have to appraise and get a letter stating there are no termites in the home. Termite can range between $25-$75 dollars. An appraisal can range from $300-$700 dollars. Aside from your down payment, you then have to pay for closing costs. And NO, they are not the same thing. Closing costs can range anywhere between 3-6% of the purchase price. In certain markets, this can be negotiated for sellers to cover by rolling into the offer price, but whether that decision is smart to do or not when it comes to landing your dream home will need to be discussed with your agent.

Now that you have some knowledge to get the process started, get in touch with an agent who will help you get through the process as smoothly as possible.

Posted in Buying
Aug. 3, 2016

Top 4 Deal Killers for Homebuyers

Falling in love is exhilarating. It can also be a bit scary, especially when a home has captured your heart. What if something goes wrong and you end up not spending the rest of your life with this stack of brick and mortar you're lusting after?

No matter how careful you are, some deal killers are unavoidable. Others, however, are preventable, so pay heed if you hope to keep your deal alive.

1. Don't Mess with Your Mortgage Preapproval

A common reason for a real estate deal to fall apart is that many homebuyers don't fully understand the mortgage process. Sure, you may get a loan preapproval, but don't think for one minute that this guarantees you will get the loan. It doesn't.

Here's what happens after you receive your preapproval letter and decide to move forward with the purchase. The lender will start your file, give you a list of paperwork required, order an appraisal and credit reports, verify your employment and income, and more.

The file is then sent to the processor who will review all of your information as well as the appraisal. He or she will then put together a package of all pertinent information to be sent to the underwriter.

The underwriter is the person who ultimately determines whether or not you are an acceptable credit risk. He or she will assess your ability to repay the loan, your credit, and the collateral used to secure the mortgage - in this case the collateral is the home. Then, just before funding the loan, the underwriter will perform what is known as a "soft pull" of your credit information to see if anything has changed.

This is the point where many borrowers run afoul. If you hope to keep your purchase alive, don't do anything - from application to closing - that might change your financial picture and sabotage your final approval. This means no shopping on credit for appliances, furniture or anything else. Don't switch jobs, fall behind on your bills, co-sign a loan for anyone, or in any way reduce the income stated on your application.

2. Read Homeowners Association Documents Carefully

When you purchase a home in a managed community governed by a homeowners association (HOA), you'll be given a mountain of paperwork to read and approve. Because there may be deal killers included in the fine print, it's important to get to this task immediately upon receipt of the documents.

Look for any information about liens against the property; current litigation against the HOA, the builder, or the developer; and any red flags in the HOA budget. Since these documents aren't easy to read and understand, it is worth the money you'll spend to have your attorney look them over and advise you of any potential deal killers lurking within.

While the aforementioned HOA problems could potentially derail the deal, it's better to have it happen upfront rather than when you're further along in the process.

3. Home Inspection Problems

All homes - even newly constructed ones - may have problems. Going into the process not fully understanding this can set you up for a failed real estate deal. Sure, you ideally want to find a home that was owned by Mr. or Mrs. Clean who conscientiously took care of it during their entire ownership, but those are few and far between, and seeking them out is unrealistic.

Set your sites on finding a home that has small, easy-to-fix problems, and don't freak out if some are worse than others. In other words, when considering making an offer, laugh at the loose doorknob but negotiate when it comes to water damage or worse.

The nitpicky homebuyer, who plans on nickel and diming the homeowner into replacing missing switch plates and dripping faucets, is the picture of a deal-breaker-in-the-making. Sure, in a buyer's market you may get away with minor demands. In a seller's market, however, there is always a cleaner offer right behind yours.

4. Budgeting Blunders

The real estate industry does a bang-up job of reminding homebuyers that they'll need a down payment - typically from 3 percent to 20 percent of the total loan amount - when they purchase a home. What they often fail to inform real estate consumers about are the loan's closing costs - the money you will be required to pay before the house is yours. This is most likely because closing costs are a little harder to pin down. They vary wildly and depend on the type of loan, the amount of the down payment, and a host of other factors.

Unfortunately, this lack of information frequently causes real estate deals to disintegrate. To avoid this particular problem, pay attention to all communications from your lender.

First, you will receive a form called a Loan Estimate. Look this over carefully to ensure that everything your lender agreed to is included. Pay close attention to the "Calculating Cash to Close" section, which concludes with an estimated cost to close the loan. Remember, this is an estimate and the amount may go higher or lower in the end. Speak with the lender if you find any problems here, especially if it will be impossible for you to come up with this money.

Just before closing you will receive the "Closing Disclosure," which is quite similar to the estimate, but these figures are final. Again, review the "Cash to Close" figure.

By and large, real estate deals conclude successfully. Typically, it all comes down to the experience of your agent. Choose wisely and you'll avoid the common pitfalls that can derail transactions. For a smooth, low-stress real estate transaction, slow down, keep your expectations realistic and heed the advice of your real estate agent or attorney.

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Posted in Buying
June 15, 2016

Why You Should Be Excited About the Housing Market


What an amazing year 2015 was for home sellers, and 2016 promises to be even better. By December of 2015, with 5.26 million sales, we had seen a more robust housing market than we've seen since 2006. In fact, as of early 2016, America's housing market had spent 43 consecutive months as a seller's market. Lawrence Yun, the National Association of REALTORS (NAR) chief economist chalks up the heavy sales volume to "the prospect of higher mortgage rates in coming months and warm November and December weather."

Get Very Excited if You Plan to Sell Your Home This Year

The combination of high demand for homes and shrinking inventories produces a seller's market and typically signals rising home prices. While many forecasters expect home prices to continue rising this year, they caution that they won't climb as quickly or as much as they did last year. "The NAR is calling for a 4.4 percent increase in existing home prices this year and 3.4 percent in 2017; other economists and strategists also put 2016 price growth in the 4 percent to 5 percent range," claims NAR's Adam DeSanctis.

In addition, inventories of available homes rose slightly last month. Whether or not this signals a trend toward a more balanced housing market remains to be seen. So, yes - although it sounds trite - the best time to sell your home is right now, while inventory is still low. If you will be selling a home priced in the low-to-middle price tier for your market, expect it to go quickly and for top dollar. You will have little competition and the demand in this price range is strong, according to Shu Chen of CoreLogic.

While this type of market makes it easy for home sellers to become complacent, if you expect to get top dollar for your home and want it to sell quickly, do the work required to ensure that it's in move-in condition.

Buying a Home This Year?

While it may seem like there isn't a whole lot for homebuyers to get excited about this year, there is one bonus for you: low interest rates. In fact, according to Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey, 30-year mortgage rates fell in April 2016 to an average of 3.59 percent across the country, down from 3.65 percent the same time last year.

Combine the low rates with more relaxed lending guidelines and there is definitely good news for the 2016 homebuyer. Lower mortgage rates mean a lower monthly payment, which means you have more purchasing power, and that additional power can "mean the difference between buying a 2-bedroom home versus a 3-bedroom one; between buying a home with large closets versus small closets; and, between buying an upgraded home versus a dated one," according to Dan Green at The Mortgage Reports.

Another reason to get excited: It appears that those deep-pocketed investors who pay all cash for homes have left the market. Last year, 33.9 percent of all home sales were to cash buyers, the lowest rate since 2008, according to Molly Boesel with CoreLogic. While there is still plenty of competition out there from other homebuyers for homes in good locations and in decent condition, the playing field is a bit more level.

Yes, there is still a lot of competition from other homebuyers. This makes it more important than ever to have all your ducks in a row before making an offer on a property. Ensure you know exactly how much you can spend and that you've obtained a preapproval letter from your lender. Make your offer stand out from the others by keeping it lean and mean, with the shortest time periods for contingencies as possible. While we're still in a seller's market, come in with your highest and best offer. The market moves too quickly right now to assume the seller will negotiate over price.

Finally, if you've been sitting on the fence waiting for prices to come down, jump off. Home prices are currently rising twice as quickly as incomes, and it doesn't appear the situation will change in the near future.

Posted in Market Trends